NHL trade rumors: Penguins not shopping Phil Kessel but are open to trade talks

Welcome to NHL silly season. With the Stanley Cup having been raised by the St. Louis Blues and the book closed on the 2018-19 season, the league is now in offseason mode. That means we have 31 teams trying to build for the future, whether that's next season or beyond.

Things tend to get craziest in the week or so leading up to the NHL Draft, and we've already seen a couple of major moves ahead of Friday's opening round of the draft in Vancouver. Monday brought the news that Erik Karlsson has decided to forgo free agency and stick around in San Jose, while the Rangers might have accelerated their rebuild with the stunning acquisition of Jacob Trouba.

That might just be the beginning, though. There are plenty of rumors and rumblings to suggest that more moves are in the works, and we'll try to round them up for you below.

Penguins noncommittal on Phil Kessel, open to trade talks

Multiple reports this offseason have indicated the Pittsburgh Penguins have engaged in trade talks regarding Phil Kessel, their high-scoring winger, with the Arizona Coyotes and Minnesota Wild among teams speculated as likely landing spots.

On Friday, given the chance to address the validity of a potential Kessel trade at the 2019 NHL Draft, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford neither confirmed nor denied the possibility.

"Well, it's exactly what it is: It's rumors," he said to NBCSN, before leaving the door open. "You know, I think the way that my comments were at the end of the season, there was a lot of speculation that everybody was available. I haven't been shopping those guys around. I'm open to conversations, and quite frankly, I haven't had too many."

In other words, there either hasn't been any legitimate interest in Kessel, or the Penguins are still looking for the right deal. Either way, it sure sounds like Pittsburgh isn't totally committed to keeping their former All-Star.

P.K. Subban the subject of trade talks

As if Karlsson and Trouba weren't big enough names, word on the street is the Nashville Predators are either shopping or listening to offers for All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban.

TSN's Bob McKenzie said Friday he's "not getting caught up in semantics" of whether the Preds are actively seeking to deal Subban or simply getting calls about him, but he made it clear Subban's name is "out there floating around in the trade-sphere" with the team "believed to be looking to clear cap space" for either a free agent signing or Roman Josi extension.

There have been rumblings about Subban's future in Nashville as the blue-liner enters his age-30 season, but any deal involving his All-Star resume would still be a blockbuster. The former longtime Montreal Canadiens standout is not only one of the NHL's most colorful personalities but was a big reason the Preds advanced to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Traded by the Habs the year prior as part of the big-name Shea Weber swap, he's still playing under an eight-year deal signed with Montreal in 2014.

Penguins listening to offers for Letang?

According to the The Athletic's Rob Rossi, the Pittsburgh Penguins are entertaining offers for top defenseman Kris Letang. Any deal for Letang, 32, would reportedly need to include an "impact player on a controllable contract and/or a projected future salary-cap hit that was reasonable."

Rossi's report claims at least two clubs have contacted general manager Jim Rutherford about Letang, both of them from the Eastern Conference and both on Letang's list of 18 approved trade destinations. 

If accurate, it's an interesting development for the Penguins, who already traded defenseman Olli Maatta (Chicago) this offseason. Pittsburgh has had serious issues on its back end over the past few years, but Letang had a strong season and was far and away the Pens' best defenseman this past season.

Leafs not shopping Marner, but might not match offer sheet

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported this week that the Maple Leafs and Mitch Marner are entrenched in "a game of chicken." According to Friedman, if Marner, who is a restricted free agent, wants his next contract to be in the neighborhood of $11 million annually (as has been reported) then the team wants him to go to eight years, which he's reportedly not willing to do. 

The team is reportedly not exploring the idea of trading Marner yet, but the Leafs are supposedly very active in discussions around some of their other players. 

Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas said Thursday that the team will not necessarily match any offer sheet that could be presented to Marner.

Carolina taking calls on defensemen

The Carolina Hurricanes have a wealth of solid right-shot defensemen and they've been taking calls about potentially moving one of those guys. According to TSN's Frank Seravelli, Brett Pesce has been popular among those inquiring due to his cost control and ability, but the Hurricanes are reluctant to move him.

Justin Faulk, 27, seems a more likely candidate to get moved due to the fact that he's older and has one year remaining on his contract. The Canes have reportedly had preliminary discussions with Faulk on a possible extension, but don't be too surprised if he's a guy that gets dealt in the coming days.

Vegas looking to move David Clarkson's contract

The Vegas Golden Knights are looking to free up some money by trading David Clarkson, which might happen around the draft. According to The Athletic's Jesse Granger, Clarkson has submitted his 14 team trade list to Vegas.

Clarkson, 35, hasn't played in three years and likely won't play another NHL game again due to a chronically injured back, but he still has one year remaining on his current deal. The Golden Knights are on the hook to pay out the remainder of that deal unless they can entice another team to assume the final year. If not, they'll likely have to find cap relief by placing him on Long Term Injured Reserve.

Nikolaj Ehlers on the block

After dealing Trouba to the Rangers, Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff might not be done dealing. 

"We have lots of moving parts, or balls in the air," Cheveldayoff said, per TSN.

According to TSN's Frank Seravelli, the Jets offered Ehlers to the Carolina Hurricanes for one of their right-shot defensemen. We heard chatter last season that Dougie Hamilton might be available for the right price, though

The 23-year-old Ehlers had a tough season last year but he's a young, highly talented scoring threat on the wing and would be a valuable addition to a team looking for offensive firepower. He's about to enter the second season of a seven-year, $42 million deal ($6 million AAV). 

Vancouver, Edmonton with interest in Zaitsev

It's almost a certainty that Nikita Zaitsev will get traded soon. The 27-year-old defenseman has requested a trade from the Maple Leafs for personal reasons, most likely because he's unhappy with his role on the team.

According to a report from TSN's Darren Dreger this week, Zaitsev is on the radar of the Vancouver Canucks and the Edmonton Oilers.

Zaitsev has had a rough go of things with Toronto over the past couple of years and has been somewhat of a liability on the right side of their blue line. He did show an ability to play at a high level when he entered the league in 2016, so it's possible that a fresh start could be beneficial for the Russian defenseman. 

He's got five year's left on his current contract at $4.5 million AAV. He also has a limited no-trade clause that allows him to have a 10 team no-trade list.

'Unprecedented' time for communication

If more significant moves don't happen this week, it won't be for a lack of effort. At least two general managers have told TSN that the league's front offices are incredibly busy and active in discussions leading up to the draft, maybe more than they've ever been.

"There's been more conversation and communication between GMs in the last month than maybe ever since I've been a GM," said San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson, who has held that role since 2003. 

Cheveldayoff echoed that sentiment.

"This is probably an unprecedented time of communication between the general managers," Cheveldayoff said.

We'll have to see how many of those discussions lead to actual moves but it's a promising sign for those in need of offseason entertainment.

Pete Blackburn is from Boston, so there's a good chance you don't like him already. He has been a writer at CBS Sports since 2017 and usually aims to take a humorous and light-hearted approach to the often... Full Bio

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